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joyWednesday, November 10, 2021

Esther 8

Joy and Intrigue

Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of deceitful intrigue.

The opening chapters of Esther’s story describe how this young woman, despite her Jewish identity and fidelity to Yahweh, finds herself at the center of a major, political power struggle. Esther’s uncle Mordecai counsels her; and the courtier Haman – full of hatred, envy and pride – plots to kill all Jews in the kingdom. Resenting the power and influence Mordecai and Esther hold with the king, Haman hatches a devilish plot; and Esther finds that the only way for her to survive is to rely on God’s providence and care. In the end, the tables turn on Haman and he suffers the very punishment he had hoped to exact on the Jewish people, death on the gallows built at his own command.

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Verses 8:15-17:  Mordecai left the palace, wearing royal robes of blue and white, a cloak of fine purple linen, and a magnificent gold crown. Then the streets of Susa rang with cheers and joyful shouts. For the Jews there was joy and relief, happiness and a sense of victory. In every city and province, wherever the king’s proclamation was read, the Jews held a joyful holiday with feasting and happiness. In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.

The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves looking for power and revenge. The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves plotting to preserve power or damage another another’s reputation. The story of Esther is one we will want to recall when we find ourselves thrilling to schemes of undoing . . . rather than planning to work in the kingdom of God.


For more about the painting by Arent de Gelder, click on the image above or go to: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/174.html

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.

Read this story from the beginning at, Esther 1-8. 

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Haman, Ahasuerus and Esther

Edward Armitage: Haman, Ahasuerus and Esther

The Story of Esther

What do we teach ourselves and others with our lives?

The triangle of Esther, Ahasuerus and Haman is a delicate one.  The young Queen has hidden her ethnic origin and fears discovery and death.  The King has followed the advice of his trusted vizier Haman and now finds that he has been betrayed.  Haman has allowed jealousy to consume him to the point of his own destruction.  Where do we see these characters in our lives today . . . and who are we in the scenarios that play out around us?

In the workplace, a plot slowly brews until an awful truth comes forward to appall or disgust us.   Betrayal, slander, back-stabbing, false accusations fly and we find that we have sudden choices to make.  How do we determine where we stand?  Where are we in this scenario?  How do we react?  What do we do? What do we learn?  What message do we teach with our lives?

A family member or close friend has become depressive and negative and looks not for companions in grief but for compatriots in gossip.  What do we do in this circumstance?  Do we gently rebuke?  Do we comply with this gentle slide into evil? What do we say?  What do we learn?  What do we represent with our lives?

We have recently been invited to join a group we have wanted to be a part of for some time yet now we discover the price of admittance is our unquestioning, fanatic loyalty.  What role do we play in this picture?  Do we quietly escape and think only of ourselves?  Do we warn potential victims and look for an authentic, loving response?  How do we decide? What do we learn? What do we embody with our lives?

As we allow this story to trickle through our thinking to reflect back to us little mirror images of who we are and what we do, is there some new idea that comes to us?  Some thought we want to share with others?  If so, enter your comment below.


To read this story in an edition of the Bible other than the one you already know, click on the scripture link above or go to: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Esther+1-10&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG 

Image from: https://www.jewishboston.com/long-live-the-queen

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Esther 9 – Reversal

Yesterday we reflected on how God foils perfect plots . . . today we examine the turning point in the story of Esther and look for clues about how we might expect the same reversal of evil when we place ourselves fully in God’s hands.

As humans we too often see or experience the hunting down and destroying of either an innocent or someone we believe “deserves what she gets”.  Regardless of guilt or blamelessness, the brutal pack mentality of an attack on another human being is something to be avoided and we must work at turning others away from this ugly thinking.  We may have been a peripheral or integral part of a plot to bring someone down and if this is the case then we must go to that victim to ask forgiveness.  Association with those whose goal it is to establish an us against them mentality is dangerous for it sets us on a path that descends into darkness.  Escape from these associations can be difficult and is always permeated with its own special fear; yet it is imperative that we escape because – as we see repeatedly in scripture and in life – God will always, later or sooner, reverse the plots that schemers have conjured in dark corners on their well-worn couches.

When the day arrived on which the order decreed by the king was to be carried out . . . on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to become masters of them, the situation was reversed: the Jews became masters of their enemies.

King Ahasuerus allows a great violence to erupt against Haman and his family and this is not the sort of outcome that the New Testament faithful will want to see.  What Christ-followers will ask for is that light penetrate the darkness, that hard hearts be softened, and that stiff necks begin to bend.  And so we pray . . .

Just yet merciful God, you give us the opportunity to ask for our enemies’ conversion, grant us also the charity to intercede on their behalf.

Gentle and beautiful God, you make each one of us in your loving image, make also in each of us the patience to wait for reversal at your hand. 

Strong yet gentle God, you bless us with the capacity to forgive, bless us always with your constant guidance and care for without you we are too easily led into the darkness.

Wonderful and awesome God, you surprise us constantly with your merciful justice, help us to see that in each of our calamities we might anticipate your sweet reversal.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Spend some time with these characters and the scripture citations and study the characters in this story.  What more do we see in this story that we might apply to our own lives?

Tomorrow, what ditches are we digging?


A re-post from June 10, 2013. 

To learn more about the feast of Purim, visit: https://www.jhi.pl/en/blog/2019-03-18-purim-the-festival-of-lots

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at:  https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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Esther 7 & 8: Deceit and Retribution

Monday, August 5, 2019

Millais: Esther

We have no way of knowing what plans are schemed against us.  We have no method of seeing into the private places where the covetous lie on couches to weave their plots that entangle others.  We can be certain, however, that when the faithful find themselves the victims of these plots – as the Jews do in the story of Esther – that God will redeem his people, will release them from oppression, and will decide how the connivers are to be judged.

In the story of Mordecai and Esther, Haman becomes jealous because Mordecai does not play the game of courtier as Haman would wish, yet has influence and prestige – which Haman covets.  Rather than find union with Mordecai, Haman builds a gibbet on which to hang his perceived enemies . . . only to see his family executed . . . and himself led to the scaffold on which he had meant to exterminate the Jew he so hated.

For several weeks we have been reflecting on honesty versus deceit . . . and today we find another clear lesson of what is expected by God of his faithful.  Earlier in Chapter 4 when Esther tells her uncle that she is afraid to go to the king to tell him of Haman’s plot, Mordecai reminds her that the faithful must do as God bids . . . for if they do not, God will find another willing to do the work.  Then Mordecai reminds his niece of the fate she will suffer if she goes against God’s will (4:14).

So when we read these later chapters . . . and when we spend time praying, meditating and reflecting on God’s word to us . . . we know that we, too, hear the words of Mordecai, we also feel the tremors which Esther felt when she saw a task looming before her that was too great to bear.  It will serve us well to read this story from beginning to end, including the later insertions, and to ponder God’s plan for us as we move through our days.

We need not worry about plots schemed against us; nor do we need to create a plan of reprisal.  We only need to be constant to God each day, to maintain our covenant, to lay all problems at God’s feet for resolution.  For this is the only way we will find peace amid the noise of the world.  This is the only path to a serenity that lasts and sustains.  This is the only true Way in which to live the gift of Life.


Written on June 15, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thingselemental.com/2012/03/cultivating-beauty/

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

For more information on Queen Esther and her story, go to: http://thingselemental.com/2012/03/cultivating-beauty/

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Esther 5:9-14: Retribution

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Esther

I love this story for its crystalline message: The measure that we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38).  We need to hear this story today because lately we have been reflecting on convolutions and betrayals big and small, on expiatory sacrifices, on our complaints, on making a proper response to the call we hear from God, and on forming the alliances we will need to see us through our journey in this life.  All of these themes are present in the story of Esther . . . and they can weigh heavily on us in this season when we want to participate in Easter joy.

Often we are exhausted from the many lessons of discipleship which we must learn.  Often we grow weary of hearing the message that only God can pass judgment and exact retribution.  Often we spend ourselves down to the bottom of our resources keeping up with both listening for the call and by managing our human desire to ask for revenge.  Often our personal well runs dry after we drink from it more times than we replenish it.

Today offers us an opportunity to fill the well, to re-stock the granary, to rest a bit and to recoup.  There are many psalms and stories in scripture in which humans petition retribution and violent revenge on their enemies who appear to skate through life unscathed by the wreckage they leave in their wake.  What today’s story tells us is this:  These enemies drown in their own wake. 

Yes, we reply, we hear this . . . but when will we see it . . . and why does it happen . . . and how do we survive?

We can never visit this story often enough.  We help ourselves if we read it several times a year because it has so much to offer and speaks to the basic human desire to judge and to enact our own retribution.  Various Bibles order the inserts differently and the introductory commentary and the accompanying footnotes will explain the reasons for the jumbled structure of this book which ought to be important to each of.  It is through this story that we are reminded of how our enemies fall.  It is through this story that we remember that we doom ourselves by not answering the call we hear.  It is through this story that we can assure ourselves that our reward will be certain, definite . . . and will flow from our own hands.  It is also from this story we learn that our own actions wash back on us if we enter into the world of envy, fear, obsession and hate.

Rembrandt: Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

Today we read about how Haman is content and happy with the plot he is weaving.  We see how he flatters himself and gets lost in his own distorted view of life.  We cannot miss how Haman’s friends and wife misdirect him.  These are such important lessons for us to read.  We cannot hear them enough.  These are lessons we must see and live because . . . in the living of these events, we become more like God.  We respond to the call of our potential.  We enter Christ’s Mystical Body.  This is how we survive.

And so we pray:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are weary from learning the lessons of life: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we tire from seeking and waiting and searching: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we become lost in the webs we and others weave: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are exhausted from living on the edge:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

Amen. 


A re-post from May 21, 2012 .

Images from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rembrandt/haman-begging-esther-for-mercy and http://christianrep.com/blog/2010/08/08/let-your-life-speak/

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Isaiah 52-53: Servant Work

James Tissot: Mordecai

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

The second part of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Book of Consolation, contains clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we feel abandoned by God. Verse 20 with its imagery of children caught in a net is particularly troublesome; but the image of our enemies drinking from the bowl of wrath that they themselves have brewed, quickly follows. This image reminds us of Haman in the story of Esther. As a successful servant of King Xerxes, Haman displays jealousy of Mordecai, a Jewish man whom Xerxes respects and values. Upset that Mordecai worships the One God, Haman fumes when Mordecai will not bow in homage to him. Haman plots a genocide of the Jews, and he erects a gallows in front of his house so that he may witness Mordecai’s execution. Later we discover that it is Haman and his family who are executed on this gallows.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask God’s grace, patience, and wisdom, to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  We try to follow the example that Jesus has shown us, we abide in the faith that God knows all and keeps promises, and we pray intercessory prayers for those who do us damage.

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.  Even as many were amazed at him – so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals – so shall he startle nations.

James Tissot: The Council the Morning of Good Friday

As faithful servants, we strive not for perfection but for persistence. We cannot expect to live life unscathed, rather, we strive to reach the potential God has placed in us.  The faithful servant wears the scars of existence and lives along the margins of life. This servant does not seek comfort in the physical world, nor does this one stay long in the heady turmoil of power, fame and wealth.  The true servant meets God’s mercy and grace through the pain and suffering of life.  The true servant knows that she finds serenity in God and not in the superficial satisfaction of grudges long held or of worldly battles soundly won.  This is the mystery of Christ, and it is the mystery to which we are called.  We are created to be servants to one another, servants of God.

On this Good Friday, we remember that Mary Magdalene in the cemetery garden and the apostles on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Christ in the early moments of his return . . . so transformed was he . . . so momentous was the transition from one life to the next.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the woe of our living.

This one who is God himself comes to meet us through the miseries of our existence.

This one who is God himself graces us with his healing touch.

This one who is God himself knows the intimate detail of our suffering.

This one who is God himself loves us so much that he will go wherever we are . . . sit with us no matter who we are . . . walk with us no matter where we go. This love knows no limit.  This love leads us to joy.

Servant work is difficult.  Servant work is frustrating.  Servant work is humbling.  Servant work is a gift.  Servant work is the only work truly worth doing.  Servant work is the work of Christ.  As servants, we want to Awake, awake and put on our glorious garments of celebration.  We want to shake off the dust, ascend to the throne with Christ where the bonds will be loosed from around our necks.  We come forth, to depart, to set our feet upon the path of our journey with God as our faithful rear guard.  We answer the call we hear . . . for it is the Servant Song, the song of the true, faithful servant.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 14, 2010.

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Esther 7: The Persecutor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Saturday, February 17, 2018 

Yesterday we assessed the narcissism we might discover in ourselves and how unilateral listening governs our world circumstances. Today we reflect on how Esther and Mordecai operate in their world – and what we might learn from them.

It is clear that Haman is consumed by envy of Mordecai and while we cannot analyze this character from a Biblical story, we can certainly learn from his actions. It is also clear that Esther – as a woman but especially as a Jewish woman in a non-Jewish court – fears for her life, and the life of her nation. The kingdom of Xerxes is an ancient one in which individual rights are denied to most. We might believe that we as a species have evolved and it is true that in general, we have. However, many peoples in our modern society have no benefit of personal rights. When this happens, we might speculate, it is often the result of someone, or some group, behaving in a narcissistic manner. Navigating these troubling conditions is difficult at best. What does the story of Esther have to tell us?

Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live”.

Humility is usually an ineffective tool against brutality; it seems to encourage even more violence. Yet, here we see that despite her humble behavior and words, Esther acts in order to save a people.

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14)

On Ash Wednesday when we explored Chapter 4, we considered Martin Neimöller’s advice that if we do not speak against evil and injustice, we guarantee not our safety, but our sure demise. Despite their fear, Esther and Mordecai form a solidarity of two as they begin a quiet, patient assertion of justice and truth.

An article from Psychology Today gives us guidelines to manage the effects of narcissism. These experts advise that we evaluate both our surroundings and the narcissist to look for context, that we maintain a firm sense of purpose along with a sense of humor, and that we remain realistic about how much we can accomplish when working with the self-centered. If we are in dangerous surroundings, controlled by a persecutor as Esther and Mordecai are, we begin by turning to God and finding others with whom to form solidarity. We move forward with patience, reliance on the Creator, persisting in hope, and acting in mercy.

Tomorrow, fighting back.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find an opportunity to transform a world beset by narcissism.

For more advice, read the August 14, 2014 post “Eight Ways to Handle a Narcissist”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201408/8-ways-handle-narcissist

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Esther 6: Narcissism

Paul Alexander Leroy: Haman and Mordecai

Friday, February 16, 2018

Me, of course.

Our current national stage, with its cast of actors, asks us to explore the concept of narcissism. Unless we are professional in the field of psychoanalysis, we must consult those who have expertise and experience in discovering and handling those among us who suffer from this disorder of unilateral listening. For the layperson, an article from Psychology Today outlines six signs of narcissism, contains a quiz with which readers might assess themselves, and offers strategies to become less self-centered. Today’s reading from Esther gives us another template with which to measure ourselves.

Have royal robes brought for this man—robes that you yourself wear.

Are we able to use the criticism we receive in a positive manner? Are we willing to see that we are sometimes wrong?

Have a royal ornament put on your own horse.

Can we see that a world exists beyond our person? Do we believe that others hold truths that are, at the least, equal to our own?

Then have one of your highest noblemen dress the man in these robes and lead him, mounted on the horse, through the city square.

Are we willing to abide by the guidelines set by the group? Do we see ourselves as so special that rules do not apply to us?

Have the nobleman announce as they go: “See how the king rewards someone he wishes to honor!”

Are we willing to give others the praise we wish to have ourselves? Are we comfortable when others receive praise we seek?

Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment.

Are we quick to anger? What do we do with our negative feelings? How do we manage resentment and bitterness?

Haman, his family and friends have much to teach us about ourselves; our current national and local politics ask much of us. As we move through these opening days of Lent, are we willing to explore the concept of narcissism, and how it affects us personally and collectively?

Tomorrow, dealing with the narcissists in our lives.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we offer ourselves an opportunity to move away from our own narcissism.

Read the article cited above posted on October 25, 2012 at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201210/are-you-narcissist-6-sure-signs-narcissism

Why does Mordecai not bow to Haman? Click on the image above or visit: http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/  

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Esther 5: Building the Gallows

Queen Esther

Thursday, February 15, 2018

We must take care to observe what schemes we enter, knowingly or unknowingly. In today’s reflection, a parade of characters brings us an invitation to explore our own motivations and actions.

Queen Esther waits beyond the throne room, knowing that entrance without permission results in death. Does she know that she will need more courage than she believes she possesses?

King Xerxes offers half his kingdom in a magnanimous gesture. Does he know what price he will actually pay for this promise?

Haman wells over with envy and anger. Does he understand what happens to plotters and schemers?

Haman’s wife Zeresh urges her husband to build an execution scaffold. Does she understand who will eventually stand on its trapdoor?

Mordecai insists on worshipping no other god before Yahweh. Does he know that the LORD will protect him?

Haman, Zeresh, and Friends

These characters invite us to explore what gallows we build for ourselves and others. They call us to examine our goals and incentives. They ask us to open ourselves to the possibility of conversion and mercy.

We use the scripture link and the drop down menus to compare varying translations of these verses. We explore more about the lives of the characters in this story today.

For a film representation of Esther’s story, click on her image, or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYOaP2rf–Q 

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